Deborah Napier in front of the trees in her backyard that are part of the woodland buffer between her home and the Portland International Jetport. Airport officials plan to remove part of that buffer and build a surface parking lot with more than 700 spaces to address a growing parking crunch at Maine’s largest airport. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The Portland International Jetport’s plan to add much-needed parking is getting pushback from residents who say it will further encroach on their neighborhood and increase their exposure to noise, light and air pollution from the airport.

Jetport officials are developing a proposal to build surface parking lots with more than 700 spaces that would straddle Jetport Boulevard and stretch into a wooded area bordering the mostly residential Stroudwater neighborhood.

The parking project would fall within 220 feet of the nearest house lots on Cobb Avenue, in compliance with municipal zoning regulations, jetport officials said.

But that’s way too close for Deborah Napier, whose backyard borders the natural wooded buffer between her home on Cobb Avenue and the airport. The buffer is about 750 feet deep now, she said, and it’s her only defense against noise, light and exhaust generated by round-the-clock flights and other activity at Maine’s largest airport.

Napier has trained herself to sleep through the sound of jets taking off and landing, but too often the flights still rock her awake.

“I knew it was constant when I bought the property, but I didn’t think they would be encroaching even more,” Napier said Wednesday. “The jetport has encroached on our neighborhood for years without putting up any barriers. Now, they want to cut down most of the few trees that are left.”


Napier, who is vice president of the Stroudwater Neighborhood Association, said she and other residents understand that the airport needs additional parking. Still, they hope jetport officials will consider alternative solutions such as leasing available parking from commercial neighbors or building a parking garage that also would act as a sound and light buffer.

If the wooded area is reduced further to create surface parking, residents say the jetport should add structural barriers to protect the neighborhood. They also want the jetport to update noise abatement strategies that haven’t changed in nearly 20 years. They say they have reached out to elected officials hoping to generate support for their concerns.

“I’d like to see the jetport take noise reduction seriously for once,” said Carter Waldren, an association trustee. “The noise compatibility plan they submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration hasn’t been updated since 2005.”

Neighborhood concerns will be heard at a community meeting to be held in the coming weeks, Airport Director Paul Bradbury said. Plans for the parking project would be submitted to city planners soon after, likely in December, he said.

The airport needs additional parking because demand for the 2,325 long-term spaces has increased, frequently forcing travelers to use a 400-space offsite lot on city property that is served by a shuttle, said Zachary Sundquist, assistant airport director.

Jetport officials started seeing signs of a parking crunch last spring and posted a warning on the airport’s website in July. Regular use of the Pink Lot at 150 District Road, off outer Congress Street, near Portland’s public works garages, picked up in September.



They attribute the parking crunch to a post-pandemic shift in travel habits, including longer trips that have increased long-term parking times by 9% overall. Passengers who have grown used to working remotely are more likely to mix business with pleasure when they take a trip. Long weekend escapes have evolved into whole weeks away.

But while the jetport’s master plan calls for an additional parking garage with more than 2,000 spaces, current demand warrants only surface parking, Bradbury said.

The parking garage and surface lot at Portland International Jetport were full on Oct 9, which meant travelers had to park offsite and ride a shuttle to the facility. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“The amount of parking isn’t dictated by the number of planes in and out of the airport,” Bradbury said. “We need this surface parking before we consider a parking garage, which is about 10 years out.”

While passenger traffic has increased over the years, plane traffic has actually decreased, Bradbury said, reducing noise and other pollution.

In 1997, the jetport recorded 128,897 takeoffs and landings of all planes, with 1.2 million passengers. By 2019, passenger numbers had risen to 2.2 million, but takeoffs and landings that year fell to 58,232, Bradbury said. Passenger numbers are expected to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels this year, he said.

“We’re moving more people in quieter, more energy efficient planes,” Bradbury said, “But that means we need more parking.”

The planned parking project aims to reduce exhaust produced at the jetport by installing charging stations for electric vehicles at 20% of the spaces, with conduits for electricity at 50% of the spaces. It also anticipates fewer people owning vehicles, so the need for additional parking at the jetport may actually decrease in the future.

“We want to be a good neighbor,” Bradbury said.

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